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Help! Why Won't My Teen Talk to Me?

Oh, the joys of parenting! Without a doubt, one of the most challenging phases is when your once-talkative and lively adolescent suddenly becomes tight-lipped and distant. You're left wondering what went wrong and why your teen prefers the company of their peers over you. This stage of development is perfectly normal, but MAN, it can be emotionally trying and lead to conflicts within the household. So, why is this happening?/

First and foremost, the teenage years are marked by significant changes in your child's life. Developmentally, adolescence is a time of self-discovery, identity formation, and gaining independence. During this time, socialization is the thing! Friends are now their primary source of validation and connection. It's not that they don't value your opinions and insights; it's just that they're learning to spread their wings beyond the nest. This is good, this is natural and normal. (What if it's not normal? When should you be concerned? Here's a good article)

During the teen years, you must remember that no matter how big, loud, and scary your teenager may be, you are the adult in the room. Research proves, over and over, that adolescents and young adults who had warm and caring relationships with their parents growing up describe better physical and mental health, healthier relationships, a more optimistic outlook for the future, less stress, and less dependence on substances as adults. And let's be honest: being a responsible and nurturing parent is the baseline. 

But how can you be responsible and nurturing to someone who doesn't want to talk to you? I get it--this is tough and hurtful. Let me say this again, this stage can HURT. It's so easy to lash out or attempt to control your kid's behavior. But, lashing out in anger and trying to control your teen will break trust and harm the relationships further, leading to higher levels of conflict. Remember, this stage is normal, it's not personal, and it's temporary! (Repeat after me: I am the adult, I am doing the best I can, and it's my job to keep my teen safe and thriving.)

If you parent from a place of trust and responsibility, unwavering support, and unconditional love, you can transform or repair your relationship with your teen. One thing that kept me sane during my kid's teenage years was remembering that I can't control my teen's thoughts, feelings, or actions. Attempting to force them into conversations or activities they're not interested in will likely push them further away. Instead, focus on what you can control—your responses and behaviors. Be patient and understanding when they need space, and let them know that you're there for them whenever they're ready to open up.

Here are some questions for you to reflect on:

When was the last time you did something fun with your teen?

What are 4 things your teen is good at?

Does your teen come to you for help with friends or personal problems? 

Reconnecting with your teen and nurturing a trusting relationship requires time, effort, and empathy. Keep working at it. Here are some ways to help:

  1. Avoid lectures: One way to bridge the communication gap is to approach with curiosity rather than launching into lectures or demands. Talk to them like an adult. Instead of saying, "Why won't you talk to me?", try asking open-ended questions like, "How was your day today?" or "What's been on your mind lately?" These questions show that you're genuinely interested in their thoughts and feelings without judgment or criticism.

  2. Create Quality Time: Set aside dedicated quality time for bonding activities. Whether it's cooking together, playing a game, or going for a walk, create shared experiences that can open the door to meaningful conversations. Do something together

  3. Practice Active Listening: When your teen does decide to share, practice active listening. Show genuine interest, ask follow-up questions, and avoid interrupting or offering immediate solutions.

  4. Respect Their Boundaries: Respect your teen's need for privacy and personal space, within reasonable safety limits. I see independence as a spectrum. However you see it, you need to strike a balance between being involved in their lives and giving them room to grow independently. 

  5.  Lead by Example: Demonstrate the qualities and behaviors you want to see in your teen. Be a good role model in terms of communication, empathy, and handling conflicts. This is also a great time to rediscover your hobbies and interests!

  6. Seek Professional Help: If the communication breakdown persists, consider seeking help. I can provide valuable guidance and strategies to improve your relationship.

When your teen stops talking to you, it can feel emotionally challenging, but it's a normal part of their development. By approaching them with curiosity, accepting what you can't control, and making efforts to reconnect, you can strengthen your relationship and provide a safe and nurturing environment for your adolescent to thrive. Remember, parenting is a journey, and with patience and empathy, you can navigate this challenging phase together.

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